A former “staff leader” of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations is threatening to indict members of the Montana Human Rights Network by convening a “citizen grand jury.”
The e-mail threat came from Karl Gharst, a white supremacist who was convicted and sent to prison in 2004 for threatening to kill a child protective services worker in Montana.
The new threat was disclosed Thursday by Travis McAdam, director of the Montana human rights organization, who said the matter had been reported to law enforcement.
The threat of “convening so-called citizen grand juries is a tactic that radical-right extremists love to employ,” McAdam said. “They think it makes their lies, threats, and intimidation more valid if they throw in some fake legalese.”
In the Sept. 17 E-mail, Gharst said the Montana Human Rights Network is a “Jewish criminal organization working with other Jewish organized crime networks,” including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
Gharst accused the Montana human rights organization of “entrapping lawful citizens into crimes engineered by the above-mentioned criminal organizations.”
“These organizations are well known to commit crimes against lawful citizens through intimidation, destruction of property, violence and assassination,” Gharst wrote. “These people calling themselves ‘Jews’ are not citizens of the State of Montana in accordance to the Constitution of the State of Montana.
“As a lawful citizen I am giving you proper notice that I am now exercising my duty that I will do all in my power and the power of the State of Montana to see that all MHRN members will stand trial by the lawful citizens of the State of Montana for crimes against the State, and justice returned to lawful citizens.”
McAdam said that while Gharst’s allegations are ludicrous, he considers him potentially dangerous.
“He’s spent time in prison for threatening a social worker. Earlier this month, he wrote about always carrying a knife and having a firearm within reach. He’s shown he’s willing to cross the line, so we’re taking this threat seriously and have reported it to law enforcement.”
It’s not the first time members or former members of the Aryan Nations have sent E-mail threats.
In 2004, Aryan Nations Nevada leader Steve Holten was charged with sending E-mail threats of violence to Jews, minority leaders and media representatives in California and Nevada. He pleaded guilty and served four months in prison. In 2006, Holten was sent back to prison for another six months for violating terms of his probation by being arrested for indecent exposure in a Reno, Nev., park where he put up posters soliciting sex with men.
It’s not clear whether charges can be brought against Gharst, who maintained his ties with the Aryan Nations after a civil suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center brought about its financial collapse in 2000.
Gharst ran unsuccessfully for city council in Hayden, Idaho, in November 2003, while his mentor, Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler, failed in his bid to become that city’s mayor. Gharst returned to Montana, where he has continued his white supremacist activism.
In the past two years, he has shown Holocaust-denial films at the public library in Kalispell, in northwestern Montana’s Flathead County, which is a current hotbed of extremist activity. Gharst also has been involved with Kalispell Pioneer Little Europe, an organization that promotes a white separatist agenda and is trying to create an Aryan homeland in Flathead Valley.
Antigovernment “Patriots” and others involved in so-called common law courts frequently attempt to use citizen grand juries and even death threats as a way to intimidate their perceived enemies.
The Montana Freeman – responsible for the longest FBI siege in U.S. history – did just that in 1996.
Last year, a group of Patriots in Montana collected signatures in a failed attempt to put a measure on the state’s general election ballot that would have allowed citizens to summon grand juries.
“It’s important that the community be aware of how [Gharst] operates,” McAdam said. “This threat of phony legal action will not deter us from helping local community members both understand and organize against the racist and anti-Semitic goals of Gharst and his allies.”